Wind forecasts for rocket and balloon launches at the Esrange Space Center using the WRF Model

Ricardo Fonseca, Javier Martín-Torres, Kent Andersson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


High-altitude balloons and rockets are regularly launched at the Esrange Space Center (ESC) in Kiruna, Sweden, with the aim of retrieving atmospheric data for meteorological and space studies in the Arctic region. Meteorological conditions, particularly wind direction and speed, play a critical role in the decision of whether to go ahead with or postpone a planned launch. Given the lack of high-resolution wind forecasts for this remote region, the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) Model is used to downscale short-term forecasts given by the Global Forecast System (GFS) for the ESC for six 5-day periods in the warm, cold, and transition seasons. Three planetary boundary layer (PBL) schemes are considered: the local Mellor-Yamada-Janjic (MYJ), the nonlocal Yonsei University (YSU), and the hybrid local-nonlocal Asymmetric Convective Model 2 (ACM2). The ACM2 scheme is found to provide the most skillful forecasts. An analysis of the WRF Model output against the launch criteria for two of the most commonly launched vehicles, the sounding rockets Veículo de Sondagem Booster-30 (VSB-30) and Improved Orion, reveals probability of detection (POD) values that always exceeds 60% with the false alarm rate (FAR) generally below 50%. It is concluded that the WRF Model, in its present configuration, can be used to generate useful 5-day wind forecasts for the launches of these two rockets. The conclusions reached here are applicable to similar sites in the Arctic and Antarctic regions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)813-833
Number of pages21
JournalWeather and Forecasting
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 1 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Arctic
  • Forecast verification/skill
  • Hindcasts
  • Numerical analysis/modeling
  • Numerical weather prediction/forecasting
  • Short-range prediction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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